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Placed second, and broadly unchanged in subsequent editions, the 12/8 G major Pastorale, ‘replete with grace and aural colour’ (Near), inhabits a post-Bachian/Berliozian world, somewhere between Jesus bleibet meine Freude and L’enfance du Christ. In March 1870 Ménestrel reported Widor playing ‘a beautiful fantaisie pastorale’ at Saint-Sulpice: the Pastorale of the Second Symphony, Near wonders (2011)? The ensuing Andante in B flat major is a chorale-like scena (on an anacrustic theme determined by repetitive two-quaver/two-crotchet patterns) displaying Widor’s schooled command of motivic and sequential development. Likewise his habitual pleasure in key-shifting. Scarcely has the theme been announced before we are sharing a calvados or two with D major, F sharp major, B minor, G major/minor—the start of an adventurous ramble. Anticipating the Fifth Symphony (1879), the tripartite Finale is a grand toccata—slurs and staccato as critical to its thematic profile as harmonic thrust and resolution are to its architecture.
from notes by Ateş Orga © 2012